“West Side Best Side!” Those words echoed at the first—and hopefully annual—West St. Pete CommUNITY Picnic on Saturday, September 23 in Azalea Park. For its inaugural event, it certainly didn’t look like the West Side’s first rodeo. The park was vibrant and crowded with families and neighbors enjoying food, music, activities, and a chance to meet new and familiar faces on an unseasonably mild September evening.
The event was the brainchild of West St. Pete native Aron Bryce. “This started as an inkling of an idea more than a year ago. We created the District 1 Affairs committee and started planning and it came together really organically,” Bryce said referring to the committee he spearheaded as Vice President of the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA). Bryce began by reaching out to west St. Pete-based food truck vendors like Shiso Crispy who then reached out to other vendors. Steady lines formed in front of The Duke of Ribs, The Slammer Shop and Uncle Louie G’s Italian Ice.
Booths with information and activities from west side organizations like St. Pete College and Sacred Lands, and the St. Petersburg Public Library mixed with other community mainstays including Bayfront Health, PSTA/SunRunner and Keep Pinellas Beautiful. The St. Petersburg Police Department brought their K-9 team for a demonstration and set up a bike safety “rodeo” course and fitted kids with free bike helmets.
The turnout showed the spirit of the west side of the city, which is often overshadowed by St. Pete’s trendy downtown. Popular County Commissioner Charlie Justice strolled the event with former fellow commissioner and current Mayor Ken Welch. Justice, a west side native who attended Tyrone Elementary, Azalea Middle, and Boca Ciega High, wasn’t surprised by the turnout, commenting, “We love to say ‘west side best side’ for a reason. Great neighborhoods, restaurants and tons of green space to enjoy. I’m so glad that so many folks from all over our community got to see Azalea first hand,” adding, “Aron Bryce deserves so much credit for making this event happen. And we look forward to more to come.”